Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Boyfriend Was Creeped Out By My Relationship With My Nephew at Thanksgiving”

I have known my boyfriend for 10 years and last week he met my family for the first time for Thanksgiving. He seemed to get along with everyone, but two days into our trip he started acting distant. When I finally got him to tell me what was wrong, he said that he thinks my relationship with my 17-year-old nephew was inappropriate. He said several things concerned him: 1) When my nephew got into town, I jumped all over him hugging and kissing him; 2) Later that evening my nephew was lying on his bed and I jumped on him; 3) He overheard us play fighting in the hall where my nephew squirted me with his really foul smelling axe lotion that I make fun of him for wearing, and afterwards I got into bed with my boyfriend and tried to cuddle with him, and he said I smelled like my nephew; 4) He saw my nephew look at my butt; 5) My conversations with my nephew seem flirtatious.

I am very playful with my nephew. I helped raised him when he was younger, and ever since I can remember we would play fight, race, and tease each other. I tried to explain that to my boyfriend, but nothing is getting through to him. I tried to give context to all of his concerns, like I don’t believe my nephew looking at my butt was sexual. It’s an ongoing joke in my entire family how big my butt is, commented on only by the female family members but I am sure noticed by all. But my boyfriend says “he knows what he saw.”

Now, my boyfriend is creeped out. I don’t have romantic feelings for my nephew; I am not flirting with him and having to even explain that makes me question my entire relationship with my boyfriend. I am trying so hard to be calm but it’s upsetting to be accused of something like this.

What should I do? How can I make him see the truth? — Didn’t Mean to Creep Him Out

You’ve been together ten years and your boyfriend only met your family for the first time last week? You’ve been together for ten years and seeing you with your nephew is making your boyfriend question your whole relationship? Something is amiss, and I suspect this issue of being creeped out is your boyfriend’s escape plan that he’s probably been looking for for awhile. He’s probably had one foot out the door for who knows how long, and now he can say that your behavior with your nephew is what is causing him to question your entire relationship. The truth probably is that he’s been questioning your relationship for quite a long time, and, sure, watching you “play fight” with your 17-year-old nephew probably did creep him out a little, but I promise if that’s true, it was the straw — and not a sudden anvil dropping from the sky — that broke the camel’s back.

If you’re honest with yourself, I suspect you’ve probably been questioning the relationship, too. Unless you’ve been estranged from your family — and you make no mention or suggestion of that — it’s odd that your boyfriend of ten years only just now met them. It suggests that there have been breaks in your relationship or that at least one of you failed to prioritize this fairly big step. And why would that be? Most likely because at least one of you has been unsure about the two of you together and hesitant to move forward.

If this is honestly a huge surprise to you — that your boyfriend would question your relationship at all — then, well, welcome to your new reality. You have a boyfriend of ten years who doesn’t want to commit and who has found, after ten years, a convenient excuse to avoid committing without it seeming like it’s his fault at all. If I were you, I would take this opportunity to do some soul-searching and meditate on whether this relationship has been fulfilling for you and whether you might be ready to move on. If you are ready to MOA, this is a good opportunity to part ways. You can both feel ok about giving this a real go – TEN years, and you finally got him to meet you family even, but it just isn’t working.

If, however, you are not ready to part ways and you really, truly believe in your heart this is the dude for you, take this opportunity to see if you’re on the same page and what each of you needs to do to get there if you aren’t. Take your boyfriend’s concerns about your behavior seriously. If it made him uncomfortable watching you jump all over your 17-year-old nephew, hugging him and kissing him and rolling around in bed with him, acknowledge that that behavior may seem unconventional, that you can appreciate your boyfriend being surprised to see it, and that you’ll take it down a notch in the future out of respect for your boyfriend and because you realize that, now that your nephew is not a young child, certain boundaries should exist that maybe weren’t necessary before.

My boyfriend and I have been together for about a year and five months. We’ve had a really hard road because he has this ex who he was with for almost 13 years who, after they broke up, still acts like they’re in a relationship. She talks to him almost every day, finds excuses to “drop by” his place, is extremely unkind and disrespectful towards me, calling me all kinds of awful, unwarranted names, and she treats me like a mistress even though they were broken up and she had moved out when I met him. In the first nine months of our relationship he lied to me and did cheat on me with her. This was truly awful and the most painful thing that has ever happened to me in a relationship.

When she disappears from the picture for a few days or a week or two, things are wonderful with us. I have never felt more connected to another person before. We are intellectually, intimately, and temperamentally perfect for each other. When I’m not sharing him with his ex, I couldn’t be happier. And he feels the same way. When she’s not breathing down his neck, he wants me and wants to pursue a long-term future with me. But then she always finds a reason to pop up and remind him that she’s still hanging around, desperately waiting to be with him even when she knows he doesn’t love her and she isn’t his first choice.

The fault in this situation lies with both of them. It’s her fault because she is incredibly manipulative and incessant in her pursuit of him: coming over at 3 am, screaming and crying, banging on the door, driving by late at night, showing up at his family’s Thanksgiving (which I couldn’t be at this year), using guilt to manipulate and cripple him, saying she will hate him forever if he doesn’t do blah blah…. and it’s his fault too because he won’t put his foot down and banish her from his life.

I don’t know how to make this situation better. I feel so helpless and angry. I don’t understand why she can’t just be respectful and leave us alone, and I don’t understand why he doesn’t respect my feelings enough to shun her from his life for all the awful things she’s done.

I need help! – Troubles with the Past

Well, you aren’t in a relationship with the ex-girlfriend; you’re in a relationship with your boyfriend, and, so, HIS misbehavior or mishandling of the situation is what is affecting your relationship the most. And, frankly, his handling of the situation SUCKS. He’s showing zero respect and regard for you, and if you can only count on the person you love to have your back when it’s convenient and not when it requires some effort or compromise or discomfort or managing some negative feelings, you can’t count on the person you love, period. This isn’t on you to make the situation better. It’s on your boyfriend, and I guess unless he feels like he’s at risk for losing you, he’s going to continue prioritizing his ex-girlfriend’s feelings over yours.

Frankly, if it were me — and it has been me in the past as I’ve been in a similar situation — I’d move on. A man who prioritizes his ex-girlfriend’s feelings over his present girlfriend’s feelings is not someone who’s emotionally available. If he has to be convinced to prioritize you and to cut off ties with the manipulative, abusive ex, then he’s showing you what your worth is to him. You simply do not matter enough to him to make himself a little uncomfortable (by being the “bad guy” who hurts the ex-girlfriend). He’d rather you be uncomfortable than him (or her!). That says everything you need to know about his feelings for you, and there’s nothing you can do to change that. I honestly don’t know why you’d even want to try. If you have to work to make someone you love throw a little respect and regard your way, what’s the point? The right person won’t need convincing; respecting you will come as naturally as breathing (and when it doesn’t, then he isn’t the right person).


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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy​(AT)​dearwendy.com.

24 comments… add one
  • JD November 29, 2018, 11:00 am

    I don’t blame your BF for being creeped out by you rolling around in bed with a 17 year old. Learn some boundaries. He isn’t 10 anymore, this is totally inappropriate.

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    • Bcamber November 30, 2018, 7:40 am

      Totally agree.

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    • laylas April 16, 2021, 6:02 pm


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  • Northern Star November 29, 2018, 11:18 am

    LW2: “In the first 9 months of our relationship he lied to me and did cheat on me with her. This was truly awful and the most painful thing that has ever happened to me in a relationship.”

    Oh, sweetie, why in the world haven’t you broken up with this guy already? He is a spineless creep who can’t say no. Please just leave him. It’s all well and good that he’s perfectly charming when you’re physically there, but he’s proven that you can’t trust him.

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    • ron November 29, 2018, 12:59 pm

      He is not a spineless creep who can’t say no. He’s a cheater who enjoys banging his ex, and this likely didn’t stop after the first 9 months of LW’s relationship. He enjoys having two women panting after him. LW may not have caught him recently, but I doubt he is monogamous at this point. MOA.

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  • Ale November 29, 2018, 11:24 am

    Sometimes I want to be in a relationship.
    Then I read letters like these and that desire goes away…

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    • Surfgirl April 17, 2021, 11:33 pm

      You just speak my mind!

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    TaraMonster November 29, 2018, 11:27 am

    LW1 says, “I have known my boyfriend for 10 years.” I took that to mean they were friends for a long time, but she doesn’t say how long they’ve been dating. Either way… as the oldest sister of 4 of brothers who I helped raise, these kinds of shenanigans are common (at least in my family). My brothers are in their 20s, and 30s (well the littlest one is 4, but that’s another story lol), and I still jump on them, hug them, kiss them, and lovingly annoy them in as many physical and verbal ways possible. I’m 33. If my boyfriend told me it made him uncomfortable, I’d honestly assume HE was the weird one for drawing such a ridiculous conclusion. I’d dump him if he pushed it, and honestly I think that’s what LW should do.

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    • JD November 29, 2018, 11:33 am

      Your brothers are adults not raging hormone teenagers. It isn’t her brother she see’s daily, it is a nephew. Rolling around in bed with an underage kid is just, ya no.

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        TaraMonster November 29, 2018, 12:03 pm

        I don’t see my brothers daily. We live in different parts of the state (and the world, presently). One of my brothers is only 20. I think the suggestion that this kid is lusting after his aunt is the only gross thing about this situation. They are probably just a very physical family, like mine. Frankly, this sounds like bizarrely misplaced jealousy and insecurity on LW’s boyfriend’s part.

    • csp November 29, 2018, 2:43 pm

      So I agree that some families are more physical than others. But I think she should at least consider his opinion. I mean, if you are in a relationship you care about, you need to consider your partner’s feelings. I mean, I agree that I don’t think anything is going on and for him to insinuate that is surprising. But if you care about your partner, it is important to help them feel comfortable. And frankly, she should check in with her nephew and see how he feels about this level of touch at his age. Sometimes kids don’t know how to tell the people they love that they want to be treated more as an adult.

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    • laylas April 16, 2021, 6:03 pm

      Nope. The LW is being completely inappropriate and so are you.

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  • Rangerchic November 29, 2018, 12:00 pm

    I have a nephew who is 15. Granted, we are not a super touchy feely family, but I still would find it weird to do those things with him. I’m lucky to get a hug (I don’t force it as I hated to be forced to give hugs when I was a kid). I will mess up his hair though – all in good fun. So, yeah, I would find it creepy as well. Maybe your bf is looking for a way out or maybe he really was creeped out by it. I’d back off somewhat next time you see your nephew, especially if your bf is with you.

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  • csp November 29, 2018, 12:07 pm

    LW1 – If this really gave your boyfriend pause, and you think him to be a normally reasonable person, then you should consider changing your behavior. It happens when kids grow up. They need to be treated as adults and you should consider starting to treat your nephew as an adult.

    LW2 – you deserve better and need to aim higher. Dump this dude.

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  • Fyodor November 29, 2018, 12:19 pm

    We have good friends whose daughter is I’ve known since they were two or three. I used to hold them upside down and tickle them. If I did that now that they were 13/15 people would be right to be weirded out by it.

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    • Fyodor November 29, 2018, 12:20 pm

      *Daughters I’ve known*

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  • brise November 29, 2018, 12:52 pm

    LW1: I don’t know wether your letter is fake or what but frankly, yes, your behavior with a teenager is totally inappropriate. The boyfriend of ten years who meets your family for the first time? Difficult to believe. You seem to have some relationships issues in general.

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  • dinoceros November 29, 2018, 1:11 pm

    LW1: They have known each other for 10 years, so that doesn’t tell us how long they’ve been dating. Though, I think it would be much more relevant to tell us how long they’ve been dating.

    In terms of the relationship, I can see both sides. There are letters where people write in and say that they think their partner is hooking up with their sibling, and that’s usually a sign that the LW is disturbed. But you don’t indicate your boyfriend thinks that you are involved with your nephew, just that he thinks it’s not appropriate how you touch each other. My extended family hugs a lot, but nobody jumps on each other or climbs on top of each other in bed, so I can see why he might find that to be too much.

    In the end, I think this is one of those situations where you do things a certain way and he does things a certain way, and if you can’t find a way for both of you to be happy with how things are done, then you’re incompatible. I assume you’re not going to stop being super affectionate with your nephew just because your boyfriend doesn’t like it, and I doubt he can force himself to not find it weird.

    That being said, I imagine that there are some teens who exist who have relatives who continue touching them in the same way they touched them as children and are uncomfortable/don’t know how to convey it. I hope that the LW is good at picking up cues to confirm this isn’t the case. If you were a dude and this was your niece, somebody would have probably called the cops on you already.

    LW2: I’m sorry, but most reasonable people would not have continued dating someone who cheated with them in the first 9 months of the relationship. During that time, they are supposed to be super into you. If your boyfriend can’t even bring himself to be faithful during the “honeymoon phase,” then I don’t know that he cares that much about you. Beyond that, he spends all his time with the person he cheated with and is cool with her talking crap about you.

    You’re fixated on his ex, but your boyfriend has repeatedly made it clear that he doesn’t really care about you and that he doesn’t respect you or the relationship. You aren’t helpless. You are choosing to ignore those facts and choosing not to act. The only thing that will make things better is to break up with him.

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  • anonymousse November 29, 2018, 1:13 pm

    LW 1…I read it as she’s known him for ten years, but maybe the dating is more recent.

    Depending on your definition of “jumping,” I don’t think this sounds really that inappropriate. I think every family has their own threshold for what is normal and what isn’t. One side of my family is really standoffish and hardly hug. One side is the most extreme opposite with full on mouth kisses to great eachother. Tomato/tomato.

    LW2… please break up with your bf, who is still very much in a relationship with his ex. He won’t respect you enough to stop sleeping with her and hab8ng her over, even with their history. So it’s time to move on. You deserve to have a bf who you can trust, who won’t keep an ex on the immediate back burner.
    If you’re bf is the only one bothered, I would say he was probably brought up differently and I can see how his alarmist reaction is a turn off.

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    • anonymousse November 29, 2018, 1:15 pm

      Ugh. I wish I could edit this.

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  • peggy November 29, 2018, 1:42 pm

    I am not sure if the ten years is dating ,as friends mainly or on/off relationship-though only meeting the family now seems weird. If you have only be actually dating a short time and he does not know yoy as a partner well-I can see that he might have found your behavior odd or juvenile. And if this wa reversed and he was doing with a niece,I bet you would find it creepy too-and it would be inappropriate,I think.
    You need to talk to him and then tone it down-not just because it bothers him,but because it is too much-you are not a teenager,peer of your nephew.

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  • Bcamber November 30, 2018, 7:45 am

    I wonder what the responses would be if it were a 30-something man and a 17 year old girl, especially the rolling around in bed stuff.

    If it were my DH I would not be okay with it, it’s completely inappropriate.

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  • CET November 30, 2018, 7:59 am

    LW1, It’s nice you are so close to your nephew, but you need to develop some boundaries!!He’s not a 7 year old anymore. He’s 17! I find it odd you jump on him hugging and kissing him and you jump into bed with him and roll around…this is not appropriate. Imagine a scenario where you reverse the sexes…can you now see that this is not appropriate????

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  • Anne December 8, 2018, 10:16 pm

    LW2: reading your relationship, I felt thought I must have written this 10 years ago! I was in the exact same situation. Every single thing you wrote was a part of my “relationship”. I wouldn’t listen to friends or family who told me how terrible the relationship was. My friend stopped talking to me because I wouldn’t listen to them. They said they have never seen me so sad.

    It literally took me moving away to a completely new city 12 hours away to get me to realize the lies I was being told by this guy.

    Please don’t think try to tell yourself this is as good as you can get (cause that’s what he made me think). It became an emotionally abusive relationship and I hope you MOA before you feel like yours gets to that level.

    If he tested you the way he is, he doesn’t love you. You deserve better.

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